Not terribly long ago, winter served as a secret season for locals and in-the-know visitors who savored the relaxed pace and hushed streets. As the variety and caliber of shops, restaurants, museums, and music venues grew over the years, Asheville began to buzz year-round. Today, there is far too much to experience to hibernate through the colder months.

The western corner of the state is the prime place to enjoy snow sports, including skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. Slopes are easy to find, including at Hatley Pointe (formerly Wolf Ridge) Ski Resort in nearby Mars Hill, which offers skiing and snowboarding lessons and starter runs for beginners as well as black diamond routes. Farther afield, you can glide the mountainsides at Maggie Valley’s Cataloochee Ski Area, which also features the Cat Cage Terrain Park. For powdery excitement minus the racing speeds, take a snowshoe tour at Sugar Mountain Resort near Banner Elk. Beech Mountain offers runs for every skill level and onsite childcare is a bonus. Figure skaters and hockey fans can spend time at the rink at Appalachian Ski Mtn. in Blowing Rock.

There is no shortage of places to play indoors, too. At the fitness campus dubbed Riveter, thrill seekers can scale the walls in the climbing gym, find balance with a yoga class, get a workout in with the fitness studio’s bikes, treadmills, and weights, and then kick back at the Libation Station with snacks, beer, wine, and kombucha. Sign up at SōR Studios for lively music-fueled cycling and Rhythm & Burn sessions. Check out Rebel Strength and Row House for a focused total body challenge.

If you’re looking for brain games, take your pick from hundreds of varieties that go far beyond Scrabble and Monopoly at Well Played Board Game Café on Asheville’s South Slope. The onsite café offers everything from breakfast and brownies to coffee and cocktails. For throwback fun, Asheville Retrocade and the Asheville Pinball Museum will give you ample opportunities to reach your highest score. To test your knowledge while raising a pint, check out the lively trivia nights, including Quizzo Mondays at Jack of the Wood, Trivia Tuesdays at Archetype Brewing (West), and Team Trivia at Lookout Brewing Company in Black Mountain.

Families in need of a warm place to play can explore the Asheville Museum of Science (AMOS) or HANDS ON! Children’s Museum in Hendersonville. At AMOS, kids can devolve into the world of minerals and climate, take part in a STEAM Lab experience, climb in the forestry place space, and marvel at the dinosaur skeleton. HANDS ON! offers interactive play experiences including water exhibits, a play fire engine, dentist’s office, grocery store, and Maker Studio.

Winter in Asheville is a great time to explore your imagination, so get in the spirit with a class in creativity. Hummingbird Candle Co. offers illuminating workshops in candle making that allow the students to customize fragrances and bring beverages to enjoy while creating. ArtPlay in the River Arts District arranges play dates with artists allowing participants to delve into painting, ceramics, photography, and mixed media. In the Kenilworth neighborhood, Batton Clayworks teaches pottery techniques to groups of up to 10.

Each year, the Blue Ridge borrows a tradition from Bourbon Street with the Asheville Mardi Gras celebration with a parade and Queen’s Ball. To participate, join a krewe or start your own and don your most imaginative costume to spread the Mardi Gras cheer across the South Slope. Learn more at

For cuisine to warm your soul and spice up your life, there are plenty of culinary gems to choose from, including Nine Mile. With three locations, this Caribbean-inspired restaurant serves up many delicious jerk chicken and Cajun dishes, and gives vegetarians plenty of variety as well. Dilbar in downtown Asheville immerses diners in the vibrant colors and foods of India, including curries like meat chawal and chicken tika masala with lentil, coconut, and tomato chutney. If soup is your winter go-to, you can pick from eight ramen recipes, including seafood, vegetarian, and curry, at Itto Ramen Bar & Tapas.

So bundle up and start exploring, there is plenty of fun and food to keep your mind, body, and senses happy during Asheville’s coziest season.